Letter: Cambodia in peril

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Sir: We remain deeply concerned by the continuing stalemate in Cambodia between Hun Sen and Prince Ranariddh; the skirmishing between them and others at various points along the Thai border; the uncertainties which are still persuading a large number of the refugees (some 50,000 in a recent UNHCR update) in Thailand not to return home; Hun Sen's dismissal of the United Nations as an honest monitoring body for the holding of free and fair elections in July; the verbal attacks on the UN Human Rights Centre in Phnom Penh; and the concerns raised by Mary Robinson on her recent visit.

It is increasingly evident that the atmosphere for holding free and fair elections largely devoid of intimidation and possible violence is far from satisfactory. We fear lest Hun Sen, following his successful coup last July, is slowly being allowed to become the de facto power-broker and that, in this situation, he could manipulate the elections to his advantage.

Time is not on the side of those who are committed to honesty and integrity in the election process. We believe that the UN Security Council has a key role to play in monitoring this situation very closely. If violence breaks out and people start to flee, either displaced within Cambodia or as refugees to Thailand, a real threat to regional security could ensue.

We also believe that the member states of the European Union, working in concert with the Security Council, should - since the Union will, presumably, be a major financial donor to the election process - set out very clearly the conditions which would need to be met before any sponsorship was forthcoming. The people of Cambodia must not be allowed to suffer yet again at the hands of unscrupulous and corrupt politicians.

MALCOLM HARPER

Director

United Nations Association

London SW1

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